SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Apple cannot permanently ban Samsung from selling Galaxy smartphones and tablets, a federal judge ruled, finding lack of irreparable harm.
Despite a $1 billion jury award that found Samsung had "slavishly copied" the iPhone and iPad to produce its products, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said Apple failed to explain how it had been damaged and why an injunction was necessary.
The ruling, filed late Monday, notes some of the reasoning that guided Koh, and the Federal Circuit on appeal, when Apply sought a preliminary injunction.
These findings established that Apple could not show irreparable harm from "the likely infringement of the D'677 or D'087 patents," Koh wrote.
"The court concluded that Apple had not explained how erosion of design distinctiveness actually caused any irreparable harm, and rejected Apple's theory that infringement diminished the value of Apple's brand, which could not be separated from its products," Koh wrote. "The court further found that though there was some evidence of loss of market share, Apple had not established that Samsung's infringement of Apple's design patents caused that loss. The court noted that the evidence regarding how consumers chose smartphones was ambiguous, and given that the D'677 and D'087 patents cover only part of the phone design, limited to the front face, even what evidence there was that design was important to choice did not create a strong link to infringement of these design patents." (Emphasis in original.)
Though Koh noted that Apple has continued to lose market share to Samsung since that ruling, she also found that Samsung has also discontinued most of the infringing products.
"Apple's evidence does not establish that any of Apple's three design patents covers a particular feature that actually drives consumer demand," she wrote.
The evidence is mixed as to the importance of design in consumer choice, the ruling states.
"But even if design was clearly a driving factor, it would not establish the required nexus," Koh wrote.
"Apple makes no attempt to prove that any more specific element of the iPhone's design, let alone one covered by one of Apple's design patents, actually drives consumer demand," she added. "The Federal Circuit made clear in Apple II that customer demand for a general feature of the type covered by a patent was not sufficient; Apple must instead show that consumers buy the infringing product specifically because it is equipped with the patented feature."
In this respect, Apple failed to meet its burden
"Apple cannot establish a causal nexus by showing an individual consumer's demand for glossiness, or for black color, as these qualities are not themselves patentable," Koh wrote.
Though the jury found that Samsung diluted Apple's trade dress, thus establishing irreparable harm for that claim, neither company sells the products forming the trade dress claim anymore, according to the ruling.